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1900 Training of the Thoroughbred

From an August, 1900 Magazine:

His Majesty the Thoroughbred

by, Harry P. Mawson

     The crowds of twenty and thirty thousand people that gather on a race track on a Suburban, Brooklyn Handicap or Derby Day are the faithful subjects of his majesty the thoroughbred.  The soft, smooth earth is carefully prepared that his spurning feet may know no harm.   the great grandstands, brilliant with color and motion, the stretches of cool, green turf, the glamour and the fanfare, all are for his honor.  When he prances by in the pride of his slender, aristocratic grace, and in the conscious joy of his strength and beauty, his loyal followers raise to their feet and wish him victory.

     These thousands who are thrilled by the cry "They're off!" who see the horses rush by, with the wizened little jockeys, all legs and arms, clinging like monkeys to the backs of their mounts, are aroused to a frenzy of excitement by the rumble of flying feet as the horses rush up the stretch.  They climb upon chairs wave their arms frantically, and shriek at the top of their voices as they watch the terrific struggle at the finish. they live only in the exaltation of the moment.

     they do not think of the long years it has taken to make the modern thoroughbred, nor of the cares, anxieties, and the attention which each of these perfect racing machines has cost owners, trainers, and attendants.

    The first string out for exercise at daybreak---the horses are sent to the track before it is fairly lgiht, so that all can finish their monring work before it becomes hot.

     In America the whole tendency is to develop a horse that will run short distances at great speed--the sprinter. This is attributable to the influence of the bookmaker. It is to his advantage to have as many races as possible each day, and in the shorter distances,  the element of chance becomes greater, because a horse left at the post has no hope of winning.  The more uncertain a race is, the more it pleases the bookmaker.  In America, the time in which a race is run is an important matter; in England, but little attention is paid to time.   Horses are bred there to run long distances and to carry weight.

     The actual cost of raising a thoroughbred yearling upon a gentleman's stock farm is about $125.00.  This covers only the bare cost of the labor and the feeding, and makes no allowance for interest upon the investment, insurance, losses by death, barren mares, and other minor details.   On an 800 acre farm producing 50 yearlings annually, they would sell for about $500.00 each to bring their owner a fair return.  In the South, where labor is cheap and the investment less, the cost should be lower and if the equine family represented is a fashionable one, the profit at that price should be substantial.  It is the men that race who make the losses, as about one in ten of the yearlings develops into a real race horse.

Two year olds begin their racing career early in the spring.   The distance of the first races, as a rule, is half a mile, or four and a half furlongs.  From May until October the usual distances are five-eighths or 3/4 of a mile.  In November, if there is any racing, the youngster is considered strong enough to race 7/8 and even a full mile.

On the Day of the Race

     About half an hour before a race for two year olds is run, each colt is sent half a mile up the track and then cantered down toward the wire, at gradually increasing speed. Older horses are sent around at a a slow canter and at the finish are "breezed" for a 1/4 of a mile.  This method, which is purely American, is to warm and limber up the animals for the actual race. After this the colt is taken into the paddock and walked about until the bugle blows to go to the post.  When a colt is very nervous, the trainer keeps him in a box stall, instead of walking him about the paddock.

When the race is run, the colt is scraped and rubbed. His legs, the front ones particularly, are bound up to the knees in wet bandages; his mouth is sponged out, and a little water and a nibble of hay are given him. Then a cotton sheet, or "linsey", as it is called is thrown over the colt from his ears down, and bound closely about the lungs; a small blanket is put over his loins, and the colt is taken to his stable, where a light blanket is placed over the linsey.   The blanket soon absorbs the perspiration, leaving the linsey underneath cool and dry.  After this, the horse is rubbed down again, sponged and turned loose in his box stall, to eat his oats, whether he has earned them or not. His day's work is done.


An early photograph showing activity in the paddock at Belmont Park. Circa around 1910.

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